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Two more picks by Tim Jennings help spare Bears a bigger beating

Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings pushes forward during first quarter Soldier Field Chicago Ill. Sunday November 11 2012. | Andrew

Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings pushes forward during the first quarter at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., on Sunday, November 11, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 11, 2013 1:46AM



Were it not for cornerback Tim Jennings, who knows what type of damage the Houston Texans would have inflicted on the Bears in the first half Sunday night at Soldier Field?

There weren’t many, if any, other highlights for the Bears during a sloppy first half other than Jennings ending two of the Texans’ drives with interceptions.

While much of the pregame hype was devoted to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, two of the leading candidates for defensive player of the year, Jennings continued his breakout season. Make that his All-Pro season, as the seven-year veteran, who was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, increased his league lead in interceptions with his seventh and eighth picks.

In the end, those were the only big plays made by the Bears in a 13-6 loss.

Jennings, who has declared his love for the Bears’ cover-2 scheme often this season, was in the right places at the right times. He intercepted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the first quarter when he broke on a ball thrown to receiver Keshawn Martin, who fell, and did it again early in the second quarter when Schaub overthrew star receiver Andre Johnson during one of the Texans’ many play-action plays.

‘‘I was just doing my job, staying on top,’’ Jennings said. ‘‘On the first one, the guy slipped, and I was able to have a good break on the ball. The second one, I think the ball just got away from the quarterback, and I was in good position.’’

Jennings could have had long returns after both picks — with a touchdown seemingly possible after the second — but reviews determined he was down by contact on each. T he Bears only managed three points off his interceptions.

Did he feel like he was touched after the picks?

‘‘Not the second one,’’ he said. ‘‘But they went back to the replay and saw that I got touched. But I didn’t [feel] it. I didn’t think so.’’

Quarterback Jay Cutler was picked off by former Bears safety Danieal Manning three plays after Jennings’ first interception had given the Bears good field position. Receiver Brandon Marshall couldn’t bring in what would have been a 33-yard touchdown catch after Jennings’ second interception early in the second quarter, leaving the Bears to settle for a 51-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.

‘‘We knew it was going to be a tough one,’’ Jennings said. ‘‘We had to be beat them in the turnover ratio, and we weren’t able to do that.’’

That doesn’t discount what Jennings did, though. Schaub excels at keeping the ball out of the hands of defenders. Coming into the game Sunday, Schaub had only thrown three interceptions in 236 pass attempts on the road since last season.

But the Bears never doubted that they would come up with turnovers against the Texans. Jennings’ interceptions helped offset Cutler’s two interceptions in the first half and also lost fumbles by tight end Kellen Davis and running back Michael Bush.

The conditions at Soldier Field likely factored into the sloppy play.

‘‘I’m sure it did, but you can’t control that,’’ Jennings said. ‘‘We can’t control the conditions or the weather we have to play in. We just have to play football.’’



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